Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Midnight Faces - Fornication

Album review by

If you want to play indie/rock connections then you can have hours of fun with American duo Midnight Faces. Matthew Warn and Phillip Stancil are both fairly seasoned musicians and embarked on this particular venture a couple of years after being introduced to each other. Stancil has been in bands since his teens, hardly surprising considering that he was born into a family of musicians, and it's his lung-busting choruses that give this album such an ambitious sound. Warn also began making music in his early teens with his good friend Johnathon Pierce (you'll know him as the singer with The Drums), and then when he was twenty he formed post-rock group Saxon Shore with Josh Tillman (Fleet Foxes, Father John Misty) and released a couple of albums produced by Dave Fridmann... so to cut a long story short, Midnight Faces know their way around a tune or two.

What's surprising about 'Fornication' is that it sounds very little like any of the acts mentioned above. This is more substantial than The Drums, more song-based than anything post-rock, not psychedelic in the way that much of Fridmann's productions were (MGMT, Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev) and there no way this could be called "canoeing music" or compared to Fleet Foxes. In our humble opinion this is a great move on their part; it would be hugely disappointing if these two talented men came out with an album that was just a facsimile or their mates' work. 'Fornication' is full of big tunes, every one of them in fact. We're looking at music that's closer to widescreen indie-rock; these are songs for the big stage, they have towering choruses and don't hold back. Lo-fi? Forget it. Midnight Faces are unashamedly hi-fi and this music is written to impress and generally knock your socks off. This might lose them points in terms of indie credibility, but it will gain them fans without the need for them to sell-out by engineering their music to be different to how they want it to sound. This is not a self-conscious record, it just happens to be a very grand one.

They don't tease you in gently; the title-track kicks things off with wind-tunnel production and a stadium-sized chorus. Picking a track to release a single must be straightforward, it could be the musical equivalent of sticking a pin in a map. Wherever that pin lands is a potential radio hit, so if you want us to recommend highlights then you're out of luck. There's little to choose between anything here. The rumbling drums on 'Crowded Halls'; 'Holding On' has a poppier edge; 'Give In Give Out' is another impressive pop/rock track... it just goes on. 'Feel This Way' is quite lovely and this was selected as a single; synth-pop is touched upon with 'Kingdom Come'; 'Now I'm Done' strips back the bombast at no expense to the song and without seeming out of place in the slightest; there's a moment of reflection when they get to 'Identity'; they get a touch more pensive and desolate on 'Turn Back', and 'Heartless' is the perfect end track, looking back at the journey we've just been on. That may be a simple whistle-stop, track-by-track guide, but really we described the sound and idea of this album accurately enough without going into specific details for each song. 'Fornication' is immediate, it's impressive and it's likely to have a broad appeal, and Midnight Faces deserve credit for doing this on their own term rather than piggy-backing on famous friends.

Midnight Faces' website

Stream or buy the album

Catch them live:

SUN 07 JUL DC9, Washington, DC, US
MON 08 JUL Knitting Factory, Brooklyn, NY, US

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